|By Donald Wittkowski, The Press of
Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 01, 2012--ATLANTIC CITY -- Three major labor unions formed an alliance Monday to pressure the new $2.4 billion Revel resort into negotiating union contracts and warned of large-scale protests if those efforts fail.
Leaders of Teamsters Local 331, the United Auto Workers Region 9 and Local 54 of UNITE-HERE say they want to make sure Revel's workers "have the benefits and protections of a union contract."
"Revel wants to open a non-union casino in the midst of a union town and destroy the standard of living that generations of workers have walked picket lines and gone on strike to achieve," said Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54. "That is unacceptable and impossible for us to ignore."
McDevitt said the unions plan to give Revel time to respond to their proposal for a formal union drive, but he threatened to launch full-blown picketing outside the Boardwalk casino if Revel refuses to cooperate.
"We're going to wait to see what Revel's response is. I don't know how long that's going to take," McDevitt said, adding that no picketing is imminent.
Revel responded Monday by issuing a statement that said it has received a proposal to hand over its employees "to these unions without an election."
"Such a proposal is hardly fair to Revel's professionals," the casino said, using its preferred term for its employees. "Revel is working on proposing a fair process for allowing our professionals to let their voices be heard."
The statement went on to say that Revel is seeking a "progressive, non-adversarial approach" to allow the employees to decide whether they want to be represented by a union.
"Revel's approach would guarantee Revel professionals an uncoerced freedom of choice," the statement said. "Revel desires to protect our professionals' freedom of choice and we would hope that the unions would join Revel in an amicable, fair and objective means that has been supported by the law for many years to determine employees' decisions to either join or refrain from joining a union."
Local 54, Atlantic City's largest casino union, represents about 14,000 bartenders, cocktail servers, cooks, housekeepers and other service workers at the other 11 casino hotels in town. Local 54 has been unable to reach a deal with Revel.
Local 54, the Teamsters and the UAW want Revel to grant access for an organizing drive. The unions hope to get workers to sign union pledge cards. They said the process has been used across the country in the hospitality industry and is similar to what occurred at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa when it opened in 2003.
"Both sides and the company agree not to disparage each other and try not to convince the workers that the other side is bad. It's neutral. If we have a majority, then we'll move along with unionizing the workers," McDevitt said of the proposed card-signing process.
McDevitt added that protests and picketing would follow if Revel tried to block those efforts.
"Picketing is part of that," he said. "But having a conversation with workers is the most important thing because they make the decision. We're hopeful that Revel will join with the rest of the casinos in Atlantic City and will have a cooperative relationship with the unions."
Revel has about 5,500 workers, including management and nonsupervisory jobs. The union organizing drive comes just four weeks after Revel made its public debut. Revel's April 2 opening kicked off an eight-week preview period that will culminate with a formal grand-opening celebration over the Memorial Day weekend headlined by pop superstar Beyonce.
The unions are escalating a battle that began a year ago, when Local 54 filed a lawsuit to try to block Revel from getting $261 million in state tax reimbursements. Later, the union objected to Revel's policy of imposing term limits ranging from four to six years on front-line workers, such as bartenders, cocktail servers and table games dealers.
Those workers will be required to reapply for their jobs after their terms expire. Revel explained earlier that term limits are designed to keep the work force fresh and responsive to customers, but union officials strongly criticized the policy.
"Revel's policies of term-limiting service employees and huge use of part-time workers are a direct attack on the labor movement," said Marcus King, president of Teamsters Local 331. "We are going to use all the tools available to us to let people know Revel is out of bounds."
Scott Adams, director of UAW Region 9, accused Revel of using anti-union tactics that are "a slap in the face to workers in this heavily unionized region."
The UAW, which has been able to organize dealers at four Atlantic City casinos -- Bally's, Caesars, Tropicana Casino and Resort and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino -- now has Revel in its sights.
Contact Donald Wittkowski:
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